One of the founders of Washington Ensemble Theatre, Marya is all kinds of artist—she has directed, acted, and written shows at On the Boards, Intiman, the Rep, and the subways of New York City, where she busked in her youth with "tap dancing, a guitar, bad magic tricks, and narrowly informed political opinions." Her finest moments have been at WET, directing Finer Noble Gases and performing in a stellar production of Crave. Artists who do only one thing risk losing their perspective. Artists who do everything risk losing their focus and instincts. Marya is the rare creature who can do—and keep—it all. BRENDAN KILEY


Andrew Connor and Mike Mathieu say they perform "high-octane sketch comedy," but that undersells their uniqueness. "Avant-comedy" would be better. A stream of delightful weirdness burbles through the Cody Rivers Show. There are tight Fosse-style dance routines with kayak oars and Viking costumes, infomercials in French about how to deal with "les gens difficiles," and boys manically and nonsensically destroying everything onstage while trying to make a present for their mother. Then there's the one I like to call Chez Fuck-With-Your-Head: An audience member is selected to sit at a small table on the stage. Strange, alien noise rumbles over the theater's speakers. The boys come out as excruciatingly clumsy, slow-motion waiters dressed in full biohazard suits. Their actions are simple and stupid—pouring the water glass to overflowing, making a viscous concoction with a blender, glaring at their increasingly uncomfortable guest—but their indescribably ominous presentation pushes the bit past comedy into something disturbing and great. BRENDAN KILEY


With over 40 major dance works under her belt, it's easy to celebrate Pat Graney's resumé: She tours her pieces to New York, Brazil, Germany, and Japan; gets the enviable fellowships (Guggenheim, a dozen NEA fellowships); and has worked with incarcerated women to create dance works since the mid-1990s. As a choreographer, Graney explores womanhood and girlhood with dance works like Tattoo, featuring dancers with full-body tattoos who are nude, then half-dressed, then wearing boots and skirts wired for sound, turning their clothes into futuristic percussive instruments. Her most recent work is The Vivian Girls, a haunting adaptation of Henry Darger's disturbingly obsessive opus about a fictional war in a fantasyland and little girls with penises. Her dance pieces are dramatically engaging and fun to watch—in The Vivian Girls, her dancers climb over giant books, play hopscotch, and dance on their toes. The Pat Graney Company has also been an incubator for some of the most interesting dancers in the city—Amii LeGendre, Amelia Reeber, Diana Cardiff of Buttrock Suites, Amy O'Neal of locust, KT Niehoff and Michele Miller, who used to run Velocity Dance Center, and Kara O'Toole, who currently runs Velocity. BRENDAN KILEY


They are hard to define—take a look at last year's Genius issue and you'll see them filed in the arts-organization category—but the seven-member art band/performance group/comedy collective/extravaganza of masculinity that goes under the name "Awesome" has become a fixture in Seattle's clubs and theaters. A couple years ago they did a theatrical collaboration with Tim Sanders called Delaware, which was both a great play and a beautiful excuse to perform a bunch of original music. Last spring, at On the Boards, they created a beehive allegory called noSIGNAL, which seemed to be less a play and more of, well, another beautiful excuse to perform a bunch of original music. (When they're not making theatrical excuses, they just play music shows.) They make new stuff like bees make honey: copiously, happily, and for other people. They have the magic, manic aura of the genuinely inspired. As for why they are a fixture on Genius Award shortlists, and not yet a winner: We can't shake the feeling that their best work is ahead. CHRISTOPHER FRIZZELLE